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FNB Durban Downwind thriller crowns new champions

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – Jasper Mocké hit a triple jackpot in Durban on Saturday afternoon, winning a thrilling dice with Hank McGregor to win the FNB Durban Downwind, and with it he took the SA Single Surfski crown as well as a place in the national team to the ICF Surfski World Champs in Hong Kong later in the year.

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The Capetonian rounded off a tactically astute race that saw him opt for a deep water line with his older brother Dawid and Kenny Rice, while McGregor led the local charge closer inshore, hoping to set a straight line course in the steady North Easterly wind.

McGregor floundered in the surf coming in and had to beach earlier than expected and run to the finish line along the beach while Mocké (Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling) nailed the line in and carefully picked his way through the tricky surf at the finish.

McGregor (Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks) cantered home in second and sealed the other senior men’s slot in the World Champs team, with Dawid Mocké rounding out the podium with an end sprint with Kenny Rice.

“It is such an honour to win the national title against a field like this,” said Jasper Mocké at the finish.

“A week ago when we knew it was going to be an East my brother and I decided that we would go deep, and when we get into a zone racing each other I know we are going fast. I never even thought about the guys on the inside.”

“With about ten kays to go, off Moses Mabhida, I was feeling good, and I decided to set my sights on Addington. I felt that the runs were lining up where I wanted to go and I could surf right into the finish,” he said.

Mocké added that he hadn’t been aware of where defending champ Hank McGregor was until the dying minutes of the race.

“About two kays to go I saw that red cap pop up and I knew I had to race my buddy to the finish. I was happy where I was. I could see Hank running with his ski on the beach and that’s just awkward,” he added.

After winning the SA K1 River title on the Pink Lady Drakenstein race last weekend Jasper Mocké joins a very small group of athletes to hold a river marathon and surfski national title in the same season.

The women’s title race proved to be just as enthralling as Michelle Burn (Fenn Kayaks) needed all her accumulated downwind experience to stave off the challenge from the reigning Surfski World Series champ Hayley Nixon (Euro Steel/Carbonology), with Nikki Russell completing the women’s podium.

“Just after Umhlanga I decided to go deeper, so I waited for Hayley (Nixon) and Nikki (Russell) to go past and I went out to sea. I did notice that Hayley decided to follow me.”

“About six kays from the finish I started to feel tired, but I just put my head down and tried to milk the last few runs into the finish. I wasn’t actually sure that I had won it when I got to the beach,” she added.

The race started with a backline start at La Mercy, where the huge surf made life very difficult for the paddlers trying to get out to the start line.

Nineteen paddlers were forced to withdraw, most of them after breaking their skis in the crunching backline break, including the pedigree likes of Dusi champ Andy Birkett.

Jenna Ward was another casualty of the angry surf, dubbed “No Mercy” by Hank McGregor. Her new ski was damaged and she was forced to swim it ashore. After repairing it with duct tape she got a fellow male paddler to paddle it out through the surf while she took a ride in a rubber duck and rejoined the rest of the field for the deep water start.
“It’s fantastic to see the unbelievable turnout of the competing paddlers and spectators enjoying the incredible experience of taking part in this competition,” said Michael Honeywell, FNB Business Regional Head KZN Coastal.

“Congratulations to all the paddlers for displaying breathtaking and adrenaline packed performances and the supporters who made the event even more electrifying,” he added.

Many of the elite paddlers will now turn their attention to international events in Mauritius, Portugal, Canada and the USA in the coming weeks, while the local seasons shifts to the popular Open Ocean Surfski Challenge series based at Durban Underwater Club, starting on 9 July.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS
FNB DURBAN DOWNWIND
Overall
1 Jasper Mocké 1:29:18.54
2 Hank McGregor 1:29:19.13
3 Dawid Mocké 1:29:55.32
4 Kenneth Rice 1:29:55.99 (U23)
5 Hynard Mackenzie (AUS) 1:31:36.76 (U23)
6 Matthew Bouman 1:31:46.62
7 Kyle Friedenstein 1:31:49.92
8 Zoog Haynes/Lance Howarth 1:32:48.69
9 Stuart Maclaren 1:33:54.56
10 Mark Keeling 1:34:16.64 (U23)
11 Gene Prato 1:34:17.62 (U23)
12 Mark Anderson (AUS) 1:34:19.38
13 Grant Van Der Walt 1:34:36.30
14 Steve Woods 1:34:43.13
15 Bailey De Fondaumiere 1:34:59.55 (U23)
16 Bevan Manson 1:35:16.58
17 Ian Black 1:35:32.40
18 Joshua Fenn 1:36:49.35 (U18)
19 Luke Nisbet 1:36:50.37
20 Tyron Maher 1:36:51.31 (U23)

Double ski
1 Zoog Haynes/Lance Howarth 1:32:48.69
2 Donna Winter/Shaun Burgin 1:37:18.48
3 Bruce Wenke/Justin Wenke 1:42:56.54

Women.
1 Michelle Burn 1:42:58.20
2 Hayley Nixon 1:44:05.68
3 Nikki Russell 1:45:07.59
4 Kyeta Purchase 1:49:13.37 (U23)
5 Bridgitte Hartley 1:54:10.89

More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

McGregor bags maiden FNB Durban Downwind success

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – South African paddling icon Hank McGregor overcame sickness, flat conditions as well as a strong local field to clinch his maiden FNB Durban Downwind win on Sunday while the in-form Nicole Russell claimed the World Surfski Series title event’s women’s crown.

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Despite organisers’ best efforts to stage the race in the best available wind conditions of the weekend, Mother Nature didn’t come to the party as hoped and the 26km journey from La Mercy Beach to Marine Surf Lifesaving Club at Addington Beach was a testing one for all.

McGregor, having come close to victory in the race’s debut in 2014, had little hassle second time around as he claimed a commanding triumph, racing home one minute and four seconds ahead of Matt Bouman.

“I’m glad to take the win this time around,” said McGregor. “I narrowly lost it two years ago so it’s nice to win the Durban Downwind for the first time.”

“Conditions were pretty tough; there was hardly any assistance really so it was a hard slog for 26kms.

“I managed to get out in front early and then kept the guys behind me for the rest of the race – there weren’t too many tactics involved really.

“I was in hospital on Friday so it was a hit and miss whether I was going to race but I’m glad I was able to get out there and it’s nice to have gotten the win,” added the Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks athlete.

Bouman echoed McGregor’s sentiments regarding the conditions while sang the praises of the victor and the organisers alike.

“It’s sad that it was as flat as it was because there aren’t many races where the organisers genuinely search for the best downwind conditions and the Durban Downwind is one of them where they do.

“This was one of only a few opportunities where the guys use the whole two day window period to try to find the wind but when Mother Nature says there’s no wind then there simply is no wind.

“I’m not unhappy with how I performed; it was good for me personally but the person who puts in the most work is the guy who wins and it’s something you’ve got to give people credit for.

“Hank was just too strong today and well done to him for that. The man’s commitment to sport and the amount of work he does is one hell of a thing,” added Bouman graciously.

Australia’s Mark Anderson (Fenn Kayaks/Oceanpaddler Sydney) claimed the bottom step of the podium while Gene Prato and Barry Lewin (Jeep Team) claimed positions four and five.

Carbonology Sport’s Bailey de Fondaumiere was the first junior across the line, finishing seventh overall, while birthday boy, Wade Krieger (Epic Kayaks/Falcon World Travel) rounded out the top ten.

In the women’s charge, Russell and Hayley Nixon went head to head from the get-go, the former edging out the latter by thirty three seconds in the end.

“I love the Durban Downwind and it’s great to win again,” said Russell. “Winning SA Marathon Champs a couple of weeks ago definitely gave me a bit of confidence in these flat conditions because I do normally prefer the bumps, runs and a bit of swell.”

“I knew it was going to be a grind but it was even tougher than I was expecting.

“Haylz (Nixon) was there the whole way and it was a ding-dong battle between us. I went deep early on and I didn’t see Hayley until we met up at about halfway. I then went on the inside and she stuck to the middle, which worked out for me in the end but it was very close.”

Nixon was pleased with her effort. “It was an awesome race and a titanic battle. I’m stoked with second place and well done to Nikki on her win,” the Carbonology Sport competitor said.

While a predominantly local field, eleven paddlers from Gauteng and one each from Western and Eastern Cape made the journey to Durban for the race with Johannesburg’s Anna Clifford Arwidi rounding out the women’s podium while Durbanville Hills’ Anton Holtzhausen was the first Masters competitor home.

Through the support of title sponsors FNB, a prize money purse of R40000 was given away across all age groups and categories while all finishers stood the chance winning various Thule and Funky Pants lucky draws prizes.

“KwaZulu-Natal is South Africa’s second largest economy and is well positioned in the tourism and sporting sectors,” commented Howard Arrand, FNB Business – KZN Provincial Head.

“We relish the opportunity to be involved with the Durban Downwind event as the sport continues to grow in popularity as one of the key activities in the province and the South African sporting calendar.

“Congratulations to all those who took part in the race as well as the families, spectators and the various communities who showed their support,” he added.

More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS
2016 FNB DURBAN DOWNWIND

Overall
1.Hank McGregor 1:44.50
2.Matt Bouman 1:45.54
3.Mark Anderson (AUS) 1:48.54
4.Gene Prato 1:49.27
5.Barry Lewin 1:50.40
6.Luke Nisbet 1:50.52
7.Bailey de Fondaumiere (U18) 1:52.35
8.Jason Ekstrand 1:53.06
9.Steve Woods 1:53.43
10.Wade Krieger 1:54.10

Women
1.Nicole Russell 2:01.32
2.Hayley Nixon 2:02.05
3.Anna Clifford Arwidi 2:27.49

FNB Durban Downwind – 5th

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in Racing

I am super stoked that I finally have the opportunity to participate as a paddler in the FNB Durban Downwind. As the race organizer I have been unable to take part the last few years.

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When I conceptualized the FN Durban Downwind, I wanted to create an event that would feed two of my great passions:

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My passion for Downwind

I really love the element of flexibility that we have incorporated into the ethos of the event. The FNB Durban Downwind has a two-day window period to ensure that the paddlers are afforded the opportunity to compete in the best possible conditions. This is one of the only events, which form part of the World Series, where we have the opportunity to exercise this element of freedom to ensure that, of the two-day period, the paddlers compete on the best possible day.

The ‘down-winders’ of Durban come out in their numbers to take part in the FNB Durban Downwind to embrace the spectacular conditions that the KZN coast has to offer

We all love downwind paddling and this event strives to deliver exactly that, “awesome downwind”.

My passion for Durban

I am a born and bred “Durbanite”.

Durban has year-round warm water currents and is renowned for its wild oceans, making it possibly one of the most exciting and challenging places in the world to paddle. With its diverse sphere of sporting activities, Durban can safely be regarded as the place where “watermen” are born.

I wanted to bring international level racing to my hometown and last year, in 2015, the event found itself on the map of the Surfski World Series.

Having the opportunity to take part in the event, as a paddler, with all the other paddlers who share in this passion for downwind paddling is truly something special.
The Race

Our Durban paddlers as expected, dominated the line up for the 2016 race. We did however have a spiced-up mix of paddlers from Gauteng, who competed in the event and used the floor-space as the Gauteng Canoe Union (GCU) doubles champs, as well as some paddlers from the Eastern Cape, and some even further, all the way from Australia. A superb mix of paddlers to provide for some competitive racing.

The wind forecast for the weekend wasn’t great, but we tried our best to get the paddlers into some bumps. This meant a late Sunday afternoon start to make the most of what was on offer, about 10 knots of NE wind. The back line start kicked off without any issues and the field spread straight away.

I chose to pick my own course on a wider line than the other top paddlers and soon I was all on my own. It felt very lonely not having another boat in sight. This suited my fine though as I was banking on two things 1. I race better chasing the ocean rather than other paddlers, 2. I knew the coastline well and that I was straight on course for the finish.

The runs were very small but there was still a push. I never once put my paddle down, but was always chasing something. This kept my mind active and so much focus was needed to keep the boat on a bump.

I never saw another boat until 3km to go to the finish. Km after km I focused on one bump at a time, making sure I was using the sea to the best of its potential.

Hank McGregor had got away early in the race and stormed to his first win in the event, one he has wanted since his close miss in 2014. Hank was followed by Matthew Bouman, with Mark Anderson the last position on the podium.

My outside line meant I spent a little too much time out in the current, which allowed Mark Anderson and Gene Prato get through on my inside. Gene’s 4th place is testimony to his hard work and fitness. I managed to sneak past Luke Nesbit in the last km for a solid 5th place.

The top 10 was filled with class paddlers and a number of stand-outs performaces.

6th Luke Nesbit
7th Bailey De Fondaumiere – this is one hell of a paddle for this talented junior in a class Durban field. This kid is working so hard and has come so far since I travelled with him to worlds last year.
8th Jason Ekstrand
9th Steve Woods
10th Wade Krieger

In the ladies there was a titanic battle going on between Nicole Russell and Hayley Nixon, with the lead going back and forth between them during the race. Nicole proved to strong on a shallower line to take the win by just 30sec. Ladies paddling in Durban is certainly world class and it is exciting to see the sport producing such amazing local athletes.

I wouldn’t be able to organize such a cool event without the help of a great team. Thanks to all, you know who you are. You all allowed me the freedom to take part as a paddler, as well as put the event on.

A special mention to my super second, my amazing fiancé Carly. Carly really got behind me for this event, diving in to help wherever she could, to make the event and my race a success. I love you miss Carly and I am lucky to have you as the backbone of my support system.

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A big thanks to my good mate Wade Krieger, who has been lending me his spare ski. I don’t have a boat right now and it has been great to have a decent boat under me the last couple of weeks, thanks Wade.

Next up is the Mauritius Ocean Classic, another of my favorite events for the year, not to be missed. I am lucky enough to be taking Carly with me to share in this year’s experience. Off to the Islands we go.

Women’s talent storm hits FNB Durban Downwind

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – Defending champion Michelle Burn is excited to see how the 2016 FNB Durban Downwind women’s race unfolds this weekend as KwaZulu-Natal’s renowned quintet of female paddling talent go head to head for the World Surfski Series title race’s women’s title.

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After organisers confirmed on Thursday morning that the event will take place from 13h00 on Sunday, 26 June, Burn is set to be joined on the start line of the 26km clash from La Mercy Beach to Marine Surf Lifesaving Club by fellow elite racers Nicole Russell, Hayley Nixon, Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase.

The five’s pedigree speaks for itself with all having bagged race crowns and podium finishes on both the surfski and marathon racing circuit throughout the past eighteen months.

For Amanzimtoti’s Burn though, this weekend’s clash represents a different challenge to many of her previous paddling tasks, with the veteran surfski competitor expecting to have the best seat in the house from which to view the title race unfold rather than competing for victory herself.

“My focus has shifted a little and I was looking forward to giving the recent Ironman 70.3 in Durban a bit of a go so I haven’t really paddled competitively since November,” explains Burn.

“A silly knee injury I picked up a couple of months ago sadly ruled me out of Ironman though, so when I couldn’t ride I thought I might as well paddle and that’s when I decided to do the Durban Downwind.

“Unfortunately I then picked up a really rare virus and was really ‘man down’ for the last little while, so I really am not in great shape at all at the moment,” the highly decorated surfski competitor chuckles somewhat bewilderedly.

While her recent health troubles, together with forecasts of little wind to help push her along on race day, see the 30 year-old Fenn Kayaks athlete heading into Sunday’s race with a conservative personal outlook.

Burn is however confident a storm of action is set to unfold in front of her as the in-form Russell, Ward and Purchase (all Fenn Kayaks) as well as Nixon (Carbonology Sport) give it their all.

“Hayley (Nixon) is very powerful and will be super strong, especially if its flat while Nikki (Russell) is probably the most consistent of the four across all conditions and her win at the SA Marathon Champs recently showed she has what it takes in flat condition too.

“Jenna (Ward) and Kyeta (Purchase) are obviously incredible paddlers as well and I’m sure they’ll be right up there this weekend but I think Hayley and Nikki go into the race as slight favourites.

“If for some reason the wind gods do bless us with some wind on Sunday then perhaps my years of experience and technical skill will mean I stand a bit of a chance but if there’s not much wind and it is flat, like is expected to be, then I think I’ll just be watching from behind as the others battle it out ahead of me.”

While the majority of the focus will be on the singles racing, Durban’s affinity for doubles racing is likely to draw a healthy S2 field as well, an event that will run concurrently to the S1 clash.

Through the generous support of title sponsors FNB, the first 100 online entrants will receive a complimentary moisture management race garment while R40 000 will be up for grabs across all age and gender categories and all participants stand the chance of claiming one of the various sought-after Thule lucky draws prizes at the event’s prize giving.

Online entries, submitted via www.roag.co.za, close at midday on Friday, 24 June with registration taking place at Marine SLC from 17h00-19h00 on the same day while the 2016 FNB Durban Downwind takes place Sunday, 26 June. More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

Aussie Anderson adds FNB Durban Downwind to South African safari

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – Top Australian surfski ace Mark Anderson is sizing up this weekend’s FNB Durban Downwind surfski race, determined to make the most of the weather conditions that will define the character of the 26km challenge while at the same time enjoying the company of the local surfski community that has made it easy for him to be a regular visitor to South African shores.

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Having last raced back in April at the King of the Habour race in New Zealand, the 38 year-old flyer from Narrabeen, Sydney will look to this weekend’s clash to reignite his competitive spark before he takes on important assignments in Mauritius and Portugal in the coming weeks.

A lack of racing recently and little indication of strong winds blowing this weekend, Anderson has set himself some conservative goals for this weekend.

However, a sixth place effort at last year’s FNB Durban Downwind – behind fellow Australian, Michael Booth and a powerful South African quartet – proves the Fenn Kayaks/Oceanpaddler athlete has what it takes to mix it up at the front and should forecasts improve, may well be a factor again in 2016.

“There doesn’t seem like there will be much wind on the weekend unfortunately but it is what it is, its just one of those uncontrollables that you can’t get too concerned about.

“I’ll get the whip out and give it a crack but I need all the help I can get so if it’s flat then it’ll be hard to match the pace of guys like Hank (McGregor) and company.

“Having not raced since New Zealand, I have absolutely no idea how I’ll go this weekend, especially given the expected conditions. Either way though, it will be good get some miles in the arms before Mauritius and Portugal!”

Having jetted in on Tuesday, 14 June and only departing for Mauritius on Wednesday after this weekend’s clash, Anderson has made a point of making the most of his time in SA, both on and off the water.

“I first came to South Africa in 2008 to race but it was just so easy to make friends that I was back again in 2009 and 2010 before taking a bit of a break and then returning again last year and again now,” explains Anderson.

“I arrived last Tuesday, everything lined up perfectly for me for the Scottburgh to Brighton race on Thursday, I went for a paddle on Monday, did a downwind from DUC to Umhlanga on Tuesday evening and I’ll paddle again today (Wednesday), so its been good!

“I also always try and do some stuff outside Durban while I’m here – last year I went up Sani Pass, in 2010n I spent a few days in Cape Town – and so it was absolutely amazing to head up the North Coast and spend two nights at the Zululand Rhino Reserve this time.

“My friends are why I’m here really; the race is just an excuse to come back and is just a sideshow,” he laughs.

While the majority of the focus will be on the singles racing, Durban’s affinity for doubles racing is likely to draw a healthy S2 field as well, an event that will run concurrently to the S1 clash.

Through the generous support of title sponsors FNB, the first 100 online entrants will receive a complimentary moisture management race garment while R40 000 will be up for grabs across all age and gender categories and all participants stand the chance of claiming one of the various sought-after Thule lucky draws prizes at the event’s prize giving.

Online entries, submitted via www.roag.co.za, close on Wednesday, 22 June with registration taking place at Marine SLC on Friday, 24 June from 17h00-19h00.

The 2016 FNB Durban Downwind takes place on 25 or 26 June, the final race date and venue will be announced on the series’ Facebook page on Thursday, 23 June. More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

McGregor seeks maiden FNB Durban Downwind crown

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – The FNB Durban Downwind is one of the very few paddling titles in South Africa to have eluded Hank McGregor, something the six-time Canoe Marathon World Champion is eager to rectify when this year’s edition of the World Surfski Series title event takes place on either Saturday or Sunday this weekend.

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“The Durban Downwind is a race I’d love to win for sure,” confirms McGregor. “It’s going to be pretty tough though; at this stage conditions look like it’s going to be pretty flat plus a lot of the local guys are in really good shape at the moment.”

“Guys like Matt Bouman and Wade Krieger are both very fit while Steve Woods and Luke Nisbet also showed at Thursday’s Scottburgh to Brighton that they’ve got the miles in them too.

“A local youngster or two may just put their hand up on the day as well and I hear there will also be one or two Aussies (Mark Anderson) on the line, which will add another element to the mix as well.”

Organisers and competitors alike continue to keep a close eye on weather forecasts as they try to best prepare for the weekend’s likely conditions with current predictions suggesting there will be a healthy breeze blowing during the latter part of the week, however there appears to be little wind expected this weekend until Sunday afternoon.

“At this stage it looks like it might be a bit of a slog before having to deal with a bit of swell at the end but it doesn’t matter too much what conditions are like on the day really, if you’ve got the right mindset then you’ll adapt accordingly.

“Anything can happen when it comes to the weather; a buster Westerly could suddenly come through and it could be great downwind conditions or current predictions could be correct and it will be a tough, flat paddle from start to finish – who knows?

“Local knowledge will help a bit if the wind does end up blowing and then current and lines become a factor but if it’s a hard slog, then it comes down to who is the fittest guy on the day!” said Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks’ McGregor.

In 2014 – his only appearance at the race previously – McGregor looked well set to clinch the event’s inaugural title as he led from start to 100 metres from the finish.

A stumbling at the final hurdle – getting through the colossal surf shortly before the finish line on the at La Mercy beach – however proved his undoing and handed Jasper Mocké (Euro Steel/Epic Kayaks) the win instead.

“2014 will definitely be playing on my mind as I prepare this week,” admits McGregor, who trains from his Salt Rock home base. “It can be flat and you’re in the lead the whole way but not even that can guarantee you a win as you could take a swim at the finish.”

“There is a bit of swell around at the moment so if there is some surf at the finish again this weekend then to be safe you’ll need to have enough of a lead that you don’t have to take a chance and can afford to take your time and go in on the back of a wave or wait on the sand bank for the set to go through.

“We’ll just have to wait and see how the weather pans out over the next couple of days and then try to plan accordingly.”

The organisers aim to stage the race in the best available downwind conditions and, as such, a two day window period has been set aside with a final decision on the race date, start time and 26km course – either Marine SLC to La Mercy or vice versa – to be made on Thursday morning.

While the majority of the focus will be on the singles racing, Durban’s affinity for doubles racing is likely to draw a healthy S2 field as well, an event that will run concurrently to the S1 clash.

Through the generous support of title sponsors FNB, the first 100 online entrants will receive a complimentary moisture management race garment while R40 000 will be up for grabs across all age and gender categories and all participants stand the chance of claiming one of the various sought-after Thule lucky draws prizes at the event’s prize giving.

Online entries, submitted via www.roag.co.za, close on Wednesday, 22 June with registration taking place at Marine SLC on Friday, 24 June from 17h00-19h00.

The 2016 FNB Durban Downwind takes place on 25 or 26 June, the final race date and venue will be announced on the series’ Facebook page on Thursday, 23 June. More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za.

Scottburgh kick starts all-new FNB Durban Downwind Surfski Series

Written by Barry Lewin on . Posted in SurfSki Events

Durban – Surfski paddlers the province over are excitedly readying themselves for this weekend’s Halfway Toyota Scottburgh Classic as the South Coast race signals the start of the newly launched five-race FNB Durban Downwind Surfski Series.

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Renowned for its pristine winter ocean paddling conditions, KwaZulu-Natal is considered by many to be the surfski mecca of the world with the newly formed series set to further this reputation.

“2014 saw us launch the Durban Downwind as a standalone race that played host to last year’s memorable SA Surfski Championships,” explains series coordinator Barry Lewin.

“We are very excited by the expansion of the Durban Downwind into a five race series this year thanks to FNB’s increased support of the surfski community.”

The emergence of the Bay Union Surfski Series in 2013 saw five Durban beachfront-based events brought together under one umbrella and now this year’s launch of the FNB Durban Downwind Surfski Series signals the formalising of the remaining five races of KZN’s age-old winter events.

“We looked to pool events that were similar in format and venue into the Bay Union Surfski Series.

“The FNB Durban Downwind Surfski Series has now done a similar thing for KZN’s remaining five winter races that are also quite similar in that they are all more adventurous, downwind-suited races,” says Lewin.

Conditions permitting, races will be staged as downwind clashes that will see paddlers head from point to point with the wind at their backs and in order to offer paddlers the best possible conditions. Each event has a two day window period with the exact race day to be announced on the Thursday before.

This weekend’s Halfway Toyota Scottburgh Classic is the first of three South Coast based events – the other two being the Seebreeze Build it 5 Beaches on 20/21 June and the ET Security Winkle Challenge on 4/5 July – while Durban will play host to the Zurich Pirates Umhlanga Pirates on 27/28 June.

“This series is what I have been waiting for the entire year!” explains an enthusiastic Michelle Burn.

“There is a little bit of surf involved, some great runs – everything we actually paddle for.

“Being from Toti it is also great to be a part of races that take place down here!

“A few paddlers have a fear of the surf on the South Coast but often the surf is very, very manageable for intermediate paddlers so I really hope we do see a whole lot more people coming down to the series’ races, especially the South Coast ones” adds KZN’s women’s stand-out of the past half-decade.

The series’ feature race – the FNB Durban Downwind – then wraps things up on 11/12 July with the fifth and final clash also doubling as a priority race on the 2015 World Surfski Series which promises to serve as an added attraction for many of the country’s top competitors.

“It’s great to see Durban finally has a race on the World Surfski Series calendar,” says Fenn Kayaks’ Burn.

“Hopefully this will be another step in the process of Durban proving that it is a great location for and is more than capable of hosting the Surfski World Champs sometime in the near future!” she adds.

On the back of their fresh involvement in the summer’s Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series at the start of the year, banking giants First National Bank were excited by the opportunity to further their involvement in the sport through the Durban Downwind’s series expansion.

“FNB is delighted to be a sponsor of the Durban Downwind for the second year running and to be able to support its growth from a standalone event to a five race series,” says Preggie Pillay, FNB KZN Provincial Head.

“We are committed to promoting local and community events that focus on healthy lifestyles and family participation and the Durban Downwind Surfski Series is aligned to our belief that adventure is at the heart of innovation – one of many platforms on which we seek to make a lasting connection with our clients,” he adds.

The Halfway Toyota Scottburgh Classic, race one of the 2015 FNB Durban Downwind Surfski Series, takes place on either 13 or 14 June at Scottburgh Main Beach. More information can be found at www.durbandownwind.co.za

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